Western Canada

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Western Canada
Ouest canadien  (French)
Western provinces in Canada.svg
Western Canada, defined geographically
Capitals and largest cities
  Total2,703,159 km2 (1,043,696 sq mi)
 (2016) [2]
  Density4.1/km2 (11/sq mi)

Western Canada, also referred to as the Western provinces, Canadian West or the Western provinces of Canada, and commonly known within Canada as the West, is a Canadian region that includes the four western provinces just north of the Canada-United States border, namely (from west to east) British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. [3] The people of the region are often referred to as "Western Canadians" or "Westerners", and though diverse from province to province are largely seen as being collectively distinct from other Canadians along cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic, geographic, and political lines. They account for approximately 32% of Canada's total population.


The region is further subdivided geographically and culturally between British Columbia, which is mostly on the western side of the Canadian Rockies and often referred to as the "west coast", and the "Prairie Provinces" (commonly known as "the Prairies"), which include those provinces on the eastern side of the Rockies yet west of Ontario - Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Alberta and British Columbia are also sometimes subcategorized together, either as the "Rockie Provinces" or "mountain provinces" owing to both hosting large swathes of the mountain range, or due to shared socio-economic, cultural, and demographic factors such as their highly urbanized populations (three of Canada's five largest cities are Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver) and significant interprovincial mobility between the two. Alberta and Saskatchewan, having once been united as a single territory, are also sometimes subcategorized together due to shared political and economic histories, as well as similar historic migratory patterns from Eastern Europe.

Capital cities

The capital cities of the four western provinces, from west to east, are:

With the exception of Winnipeg, which is the largest city in Manitoba, all other Western provincial capitals are located in the second-largest metropolitan areas of their respective province.

Constitutional history

Western Canada is the traditional territory of Indigenous and First Nations predating the arrival of European colonization. As Britain colonized the West, it established treaties with various First Nations, took control of other areas without opposition and fought with other First Nations for control of Western Canada. Not all lands were ceded by the First Nations to British control and land claims are still ongoing.[ citation needed ]

1894 map of Western Canada Map of Western Canada.jpg
1894 map of Western Canada

In 1858, the British government established the Colony of British Columbia, governing that part of Canada still known as British Columbia. The English government established the Hudson's Bay Company which controlled most of the current area of Western Canada, northern Ontario and northern Quebec, the area known as Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory. In 1870, the British government transferred the lands of the company to Canada. The area of Western Canada not within British Columbia was established as the Northwest Territories under Canadian control. The Western provinces other than British Columbia were established from areas of the Northwest Territories:


Calgary is the largest municipality by population in western Canada. Calgary Skyline May 2018.jpg
Calgary is the largest municipality by population in western Canada.

As of the 2016 Census, the total population of Western Canada was nearly 11.1 million, including approximately 4.65 million in British Columbia, 4.07 million in Alberta, 1.1 million in Saskatchewan, and 1.28 million in Manitoba. [2] This represents 31.5% of Canada's population. [3] Vancouver is the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada at nearly 2.5 million people, [9] while Calgary is largest city proper at over 1.2 million people. [10]

Census metropolitan areas

Vancouver is the largest census metropolitan area by population in western Canada. Vancouver aerial view.jpg
Vancouver is the largest census metropolitan area by population in western Canada.
View of Edmonton's central business district in 2018 Downtown edmonton.jpg
View of Edmonton's central business district in 2018
Centred on the intersection of Portage and Main, Downtown Winnipeg is the city's central business district. Downtown Area, Winnipeg - panoramio (1).jpg
Centred on the intersection of Portage and Main, Downtown Winnipeg is the city's central business district.

As of the 2016 Census, Statistics Canada recognized ten census metropolitan areas within Western Canada, including four in British Columbia, three in Alberta, two in Saskatchewan, and one in Manitoba. [11] The following is a list of these areas and their populations as of 2016.

From 2011 to 2016, the fastest growing CMAs in the country were the five located in Alberta and Saskatchewan: Calgary (+14.6%), Edmonton (+13.9%), Saskatoon (+12.5%), Regina (+11.8%) and Lethbridge (+10.8%). These were the only CMAs in the country to register growth over 10%. The three fastest growing CMAs - Calgary, Edmonton, and Saskatoon - were unchanged from the previous intercensal period. [12]

(2016) [13]
rank [14]
Vancouver 2,463,4313
Calgary 1,392,6094
Edmonton 1,321,4266
Winnipeg 778,4898
Victoria 367,77015
Saskatoon 295,09517
Regina 236,48118
Kelowna 194,88222
AbbotsfordMission 180,51823
Lethbridge 117,39434


Badlands in Southern Saskatchewan Val marie southside badlands.jpg
Badlands in Southern Saskatchewan

Western Canada consists of the country's four westernmost provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It covers 2.9 million square kilometres – almost 29% of Canada's land area. British Columbia adjoins the Pacific Ocean to the west, while Manitoba has a coastline on Hudson Bay in its northeast of the province. Both Alberta and Saskatchewan are landlocked between British Columbia and Manitoba.[ citation needed ]

The Canadian Prairies are part of a vast sedimentary plain covering much of Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and southwestern Manitoba. The prairies form a significant portion of the land area of Western Canada. The plains generally describes the expanses of largely flat, arable agricultural land which sustain extensive grain farming operations in the southern part of the provinces. Despite this, some areas such as the Cypress Hills and Alberta Badlands are quite hilly and the prairie provinces contain large areas of forest such as the Mid-Continental Canadian forests.[ citation needed ]

In Alberta and British Columbia, the Canadian Cordillera is bounded by the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.[ citation needed ]

The Canadian Rockies are part of a major continental divide that extends north and south through western North America and western South America. The continental divide also defines much of the border between Alberta and British Columbia. The Columbia and the Fraser Rivers have their headwaters in the Canadian Rockies and are the second- and third-largest rivers, respectively, to drain to the west coast of North America. To the west of their headwaters, across the Rocky Mountain Trench, is a second belt of mountains, the Columbia Mountains, comprising the Selkirk, Purcell, Monashee and Cariboo Mountains sub-ranges.[ citation needed ]

Peyto Lake Panorama.jpg
Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta


Koppen climate types in Western Canada Western Canada Koppen.svg
Köppen climate types in Western Canada

The coast of British Columbia enjoys a moderate oceanic climate because of the influence of the Pacific Ocean. Winters are typically wet and summers relatively dry. These areas enjoy the mildest winter weather in all of Canada, as temperatures rarely fall much below the freezing mark. The mountainous Interior of the province is drier and has colder winters, but experiences hotter summers than the more moderate coastal areas. Lytton, British Columbia, a small town that sits at the confluence of the Thompson River holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada at 49.6 °C (121.3 °F) on 29 June 2021, [15] and is regularly referred as Canada's hot spot in summer with temperatures easily reaching the mid to high 30 °C 's (upper 90s to low 100s °F) in July and August and sometimes top 40 °C (104 °F).

Alberta has a dry continental climate with warm summers and cold winters. The province is open to cold Arctic weather systems from the north, which often produce extremely cold conditions in winter. Winters are generally quite cold, though some areas can experience a phenomenon known as the "Chinook wind," wherein warm winds raise the winter temperatures temporarily. In contrast, summers can fluctuate from cool to hot and are generally wetter.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a continental climate and experience extremes in weather. Winters in both provinces can be classified as harsh with Arctic winds and −40 °C (−40 °F) temperatures possible. Winter temperatures in both provinces average between −10 and −15 °C (14 and 5 °F). In contrast, summers can be hot with temperatures exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) at least once per year in most locations.

Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for 7 largest cities in Western Canada
CityJuly (°C)July (°F)January (°C)January (°F)
Calgary [16] 23/973/48−1/−1327/5
Edmonton [17] 23/1273/54−6/−1421/5
Regina [18] 26/1179/52-10/-2214/-8
Saskatoon [19] 25/1177/52-12/-2210/-8
Winnipeg [20] 26/1379/55−13/−209/−4
Vancouver [21] 22/1371/546/143/33
Victoria [22] 22/1171/517/144/33


Federal politics

2019 Canadian Federal Election results by riding for Western Canada. Westerncanada.png
2019 Canadian Federal Election results by riding for Western Canada.

In Canadian politics, the Conservative leanings of Western Canadians has been known for quite some time, as contrasted with the greater tendencies for candidates from either the Liberal Party of Canada or the New Democratic Party (NDP) to be elected in Central and Atlantic Canada [ citation needed ]. Exceptions exist, particularly in British Columbia, as well as in the prairie city of Winnipeg, and where the Liberal Party hold seats. The social democratic NDP had its origins on the Canadian Prairies and in the mining and pulp mill towns and railway camps of British Columbia and has a history of support in Manitoba and British Columbia.[ citation needed ]

The western provinces are represented in the Parliament of Canada by 104 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons (British Columbia 42, Alberta 34, Saskatchewan and Manitoba 14 each) and 24 senators (6 from each province). Currently, of the 104 western MPs in the Commons, 71 are Conservatives, the New Democrats and Liberals have 15 seats respectively, 2 are Green, and one independent.[ citation needed ]

2019 Federal Election Results for Western Canada
Party name BC AB SK MB Total
     Liberal Seats:11--415
     Conservative Seats:173314771
     New Democratic Party Seats:111-315
     Green Seats:22
     Independent and no affiliation Seats:11
Total seats42341414104
2021 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada
ConservativeLiberalNew DemocraticGr.
2019 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada
ConservativeLiberalNew DemocraticGr.Ind.
2015 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada
ConservativeLiberalNew DemocraticGr.
2011 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada
2008 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada
2006 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada
2004 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada
2000 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada
Canadian AllianceLiberalNDPPC
1997 Federal Election Seat Results for Western Canada

Provincial politics

Regarding provincial politics, from May 2001 to June 2017, the British Columbia Liberal Party formed the provincial government in British Columbia, though despite the name is not formally allied with the federal Liberal Party and is widely seen as centre-right or conservative in nature. It is also composed of members from the federal Conservative Party's right-wing and many former Reform Party supporters. Following the 2017 provincial election in British Columbia, the British Columbia New Democratic Party formed a minority government with the support of the British Columbia Green Party, following the defeat of Christy Clark's Liberal Party government by a vote of non-confidence. As of October 2020, the BC NDP hold a majority government in the legislature. The Progressive Conservative party holds a majority in the Manitoba legislature. Both Saskatchewan and Alberta hold supermajority governments in their legislatures with the Saskatchewan Party and United Conservative Party, respectively.[ citation needed ]

Western alienation

Western alienation refers to the notion that western Canada has been excluded economically and politically from the rest of Canada.[ citation needed ]

Senate reform

The West has been the most vocal in calls for reform of the Senate, in which Ontario, Quebec, and particularly Atlantic Canada are seen by some westerners as being over-represented. The population of Ontario alone (13.1 million) exceeds that of all the Western provinces combined. The total population of Atlantic Canada, however, is 2.3 million, and this region is represented by 30 senators. Thus, Ontario is under-represented, Quebec has representation proportional to its population and the Atlantic provinces are over-represented. Westerners have advocated the so-called Triple-E Senate, which stands for "equal, elected, effective." They feel if all 10 provinces were allotted an equal number of senators, if those senators were elected instead of appointed, and if the Senate were a body that had more direct political power (for example via an arrangement more similar to the structure of the Australian Senate or the United States Senate rather than the UK model), then their region would have more of its concerns addressed at the federal level. Other westerners find this approach simplistic and either advocate keeping the status quo or may support other models for senate reform. The combination of all of these issues has led to the concept known as Western alienation, as well as calls for Western Canada independence by various fringe groups.[ citation needed ]


Pipelines allow Western Canada to export oil and gas. Pipes for keystone pipeline in 2009.jpg
Pipelines allow Western Canada to export oil and gas.
Vineyards in British Columbia Vineyards Lake Okanagan.jpg
Vineyards in British Columbia

Energy and agriculture are Western Canada's dominant industries – and this region, with only 11 million inhabitants, is one of the world's largest net exporters of both energy and agricultural commodities. Approximate breakdown: [23]



See also

Related Research Articles

Alberta Province of Canada

Alberta is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada. It is part of Western Canada and is one of the three prairie provinces. Alberta is bordered by British Columbia to the west, Saskatchewan to the east, the Northwest Territories (NWT) to the north, and the U.S. state of Montana to the south. It is one of the only two landlocked provinces in Canada. The eastern part of the province is occupied by the Great Plains, while the western part borders the Rocky Mountains. The province has a predominantly continental climate but experiences quick temperature changes due to air aridity. Seasonal temperature swings are less pronounced in western Alberta due to occasional chinook winds.

Saskatchewan Province of Canada

Saskatchewan is a prairie and boreal province in Western Canada, the middle of the three prairie provinces. It is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, to the northeast by Nunavut, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota. Saskatchewan and Alberta are the only landlocked provinces of Canada. As of Q1 2020, Saskatchewan's population was estimated at 1,181,987. Nearly 10% of Saskatchewan’s total area of 651,900 square kilometres (251,700 sq mi) is fresh water, which is composed mostly of rivers, reservoirs, and the province's 100,000 lakes. The absence of nearby moderating bodies of water results in severe winters throughout the province, on account of Saskatchewan's continental climate. Southern areas have very warm or hot summers. In winter, temperatures below −45 °C (−49 °F) are possible even in the south during extreme cold snaps.

The Pas Town in Manitoba, Canada

The Pas is a town in Manitoba, Canada, located at the confluence of the Pasquia River and the Saskatchewan River and surrounded by the unorganized Northern Region of the province. It is approximately 520 km (320 mi) northwest of the provincial capital, Winnipeg, and 35 km (22 mi) from the border of Saskatchewan. It is sometimes still called Paskoyac by locals after the first trading post, called Fort Paskoya and constructed during French colonial rule. The Pasquia River begins in the Pasquia Hills in east central Saskatchewan. The French in 1795 knew the river as Basquiau.

Medicine Hat City in Alberta, Canada

Medicine Hat is a city in southeast Alberta, Canada. It is located along the South Saskatchewan River. It is approximately 169 km (105 mi) east of Lethbridge and 295 km (183 mi) southeast of Calgary. This city and the adjacent Town of Redcliff to the northwest are within Cypress County. Medicine Hat was the sixth-largest city in Alberta in 2016 with a population of 63,230. It is also the sunniest place in Canada according to Environment and Climate Change Canada, averaging 2,544 hours of sunshine a year.

Flin Flon City in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada

Flin Flon is a mining city, located on a correction line on the border of the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, with the majority of the city located within Manitoba. Residents thus travel southwest into Saskatchewan, and northeast into Manitoba. The city is incorporated in and is jointly administered by both provinces.

Lethbridge City in Alberta, Canada

Lethbridge is a city in the province of Alberta, Canada. With a population of 101,482 in its 2019 municipal census, Lethbridge became the fourth Alberta city to surpass 100,000 people. The nearby Canadian Rocky Mountains contribute to the city's warm summers, mild winters, and windy climate. Lethbridge lies southeast of Calgary on the Oldman River.

Grande Prairie City in Alberta, Canada

Grande Prairie is a city in northwest Alberta, Canada within the southern portion of an area known as Peace River Country. It is located at the intersection of Highway 43 and Highway 40, approximately 456 km (283 mi) northwest of Edmonton. The city is surrounded by the County of Grande Prairie No. 1.

Lloydminster City in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada

Lloydminster is a Canadian city which has the unusual geographic distinction of straddling the provincial border between Alberta and Saskatchewan. The city is incorporated by both provinces as a single city with a single municipal administration.

Sylvan Lake, Alberta Town in Alberta, Canada

Sylvan Lake is a town in central Alberta, Canada. It is approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of the City of Red Deer along Highway 11 or Highway 11A. It is on the southeast edge of Sylvan Lake, a 15-kilometre-long (9.3 mi) freshwater lake that straddles the boundary between Red Deer County and Lacombe County.

Canadian Prairies Geographical region of Canada

The Canadian Prairies is a region in Western Canada. It includes the Canadian portion of the Great Plains and the Prairie Provinces, namely Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. These provinces are partially covered by grasslands, plains, and lowlands, mostly in the southern regions. The northernmost reaches of the Canadian Prairies are less dense in population, marked by forests and more variable topography. If the region is defined to include areas only covered by prairie land, the corresponding region is known as the Interior Plains. Physical or ecological aspects of the Canadian Prairies extend to northeastern British Columbia, but that area is not included in political use of the term.

Wetaskiwin City in Alberta, Canada

Wetaskiwin is a city in the province of Alberta, Canada. The city is located 70 kilometres (43 mi) south of the provincial capital of Edmonton. The city name comes from the Cree word wītaskiwinihk, meaning "the hills where peace was made".

Okotoks Town in Alberta, Canada

Okotoks is a town in the Calgary Metropolitan Region of Alberta, Canada. It is on the Sheep River, approximately 18 km (11 mi) south of Calgary. Okotoks has emerged as a bedroom community of Calgary. According to the 2016 Census, the town has a population of 28,881, making it the largest town in Alberta.

Brooks, Alberta City in Alberta, Canada

Brooks is a city in southeast Alberta, Canada that is surrounded by the County of Newell. It is located on Highway 1 and the Canadian Pacific Railway, approximately 186 km (116 mi) southeast of Calgary, and 110 km (68 mi) northwest of Medicine Hat. The city has an elevation of 760 m (2,490 ft).

Strathmore, Alberta Town in Alberta, Canada

Strathmore is a town located in southern Alberta, Canada that is surrounded by Wheatland County. It is along the Trans-Canada Highway approximately 50 kilometres (30 mi) east of Calgary.

Lacombe, Alberta City in Alberta, Canada

Lacombe is a city in central Alberta, Canada. It is located approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) north of Red Deer, the nearest major city, and 125 kilometres (78 mi) south of Edmonton, the nearest metropolitan area. The city is set in the rolling parkland of central Alberta, between the Rocky Mountains foothills to the west and the flatter Alberta prairie to the east.

High River Town in Alberta, Canada

High River is a town within the Calgary Metropolitan Region of Alberta, Canada. It is approximately 68 kilometres (42 mi) south of Calgary, at the junction of Alberta Highways 2 and 23. High River had a population of 13,584 in 2006.

Maple Creek, Saskatchewan Town in Saskatchewan, Canada

Maple Creek is a town in the Cypress Hills of southwest Saskatchewan, Canada. It is surrounded by the Rural Municipality of Maple Creek No. 111. The population was 2,084 at the 2016 Census.

Mankota Village in Saskatchewan, Canada

Mankota is a village in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan within the Rural Municipality of Mankota No. 45 and Census Division No. 3. The village is located on Highway 18, about 150 km southeast of the City of Swift Current. It is also near the villages of Kincaid, Ferland, Hazenmore, and Glentworth.

The New Democratic Party is a social democratic federal political party in Canada. The party was founded in 1961 by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). On the political spectrum, the party sits to the left of the Liberal Party.


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Further reading

Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of Western Canada at Wiktionary Commons-logo.svg Media related to Western Canada at Wikimedia Commons